NEAR ELDERLY: Cannot Easily Buy Into Medicare
Most uninsured near-elderly persons would have problems affording coverage under President Clinton's proposal to allow those in the 55-65 age group to buy into Medicare, but those in the poorest health would have the most difficulty, according to a study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change. The study compared insurance coverage, access to care and health status by age group. It found that the average uninsured near-elderly person would have to spend 20% to 25% of his or her income to buy into Medicare. However, those in poor or fair health would have to spend between one-third to one-half of their income to obtain coverage. The study was based on a phone survey of 33,000 households nationwide.
According to the study's findings, the uninsured near elderly are among the poorest and sickest of all uninsured persons. Those categorized as having poor or fair health represent 16% of all uninsured and one-fourth to one-third of all near elderly. This sicker near-elderly group has an average annual income of less than $10,000, while overall near-elderly average income is about $46,000 a year. "This study is an important contribution to the Medicare policy debate, in that it clearly demonstrates that a significant gap exists between the cost of coverage and the ability to pay of the uninsured near elderly," said Dr. Robert Reischauer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. "These findings also suggest that 65 and 66 year olds would face even greater difficulty if the eligibility age for Medicare was raised," he added (release, 4/1).